Journal: The Color of Liberation

The Color of Liberation

By Jonathan WC Mills
February 24, 2015

Red used to be the color, the hue that everyone who was anyone wanted as their own. The Vatican’s cardinals, English Kings and Chinese Emperors have adorned themselves, ladies of the night have used it to increase their allure. Laboutin has made it into a must have and immediately recognizable shoe. Little kids, myself included, had posters of red sports cars hanging on their walls. We pushed red firetruck toys in little red wagons while wearing red rainboots. Prince wrote a song about a Little Red Corvette. The shade of cherry red remains a favorite in marketing circles. It remains the one color most often used to grab your attention and it works.

Red, quite simply, sells. 

In automotive circles, however, times have changed.

It turns out that white has been the most popular car color since 2006. White, as you may know, is actually the absence of color. It is, quite literally, not a color. In these perilous times, choosing a shade of red for a purchase as significant as an automobile feels like setting yourself up for ridicule.

“It’s too flashy.” “It’s a ticket magnet”. “You’re having a mid-life crisis.”

These are real comments, uttered by actual people to me and others. Whether biased by perception or reality, when it comes to red, people have strong opinions. As do I.

I happen to believe that red cars are awesome. But before I get into why, lets take a quick look back at the history of this hue.

Carmine was originally created using bugs–the cochineal beetle, to be more specific–bugs that are still in use today (looked at the ingredients of Cherry Coke lately?). The dye, made from beetle guts, was originally used by meso-American cultures and across Asia, eventually making its way into western European culture with much success. For centuries it remained rare and, as such, expensive.

In the 21st century, however, many things have changed. Red is no longer unusual. Indeed, it’s common. How many stop signs does the average driver see in a day? How many sets of red lips? Labels? In modern times, the color has reached its nadir and to many it’s now seen as adolescent, immature, and gaudy. All of which contributes to red being shunned as a car color except in a few isolated instances.

This is a shame.

I dare you, for instance, to name me a more iconic car than a red Ferrari. While the brand has been categorically associated with the color for fifty years, many would also argue that this association also, in part, heightened the perception of the color as overly brash. While this is not Ferrari’s fault (I blame movies and popular culture, not the car,) it’s had an effect. And while many other OEMs have used the color as part of their line-up, there are few who would argue that Ferrari hasn’t been the most successful–and for good reason.

For enthusiasts, there are few greater automotive experiences than witnessing a red V12–powered Ferrari screaming past you at speed. It is both electrifying and powerful. For additional proof of this, just watch our own videos on the iconic 250 GTO or 330 P4. And be sure to turn up the volume on on your speakers while you do so. 

Ferrari, however, doesn’t own red. The color has been used to great effect on many cars, old and new, because it is gorgeous. Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder but a red car that captures attention wherever it goes is universally admired, sometimes envied, and occasionally reviled. One thing it is not, though, is ignored. Red cars often bring smiles to people’s lips; small children point and laugh in excitement. Pretty girls notice. It is a color of excitement and passion–a color that tells the world you are alive, and for this reason I love it.

Red is not a color for the meek. It’s the color of choice for someone who doesn’t follow the herd, who realizes that our time on this earth is finite and that tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. A red sports car is a symbol of liberation, a joyous scream of man coupled with machine, a color that can bring happiness on a cold and rainy day.

So, the next time you’re shopping for a car, go check out the red one first. You’ll see what I mean.

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Bill Meyer
Bill Meyer
7 years ago

Jeeeze Louieeeze……how did all these timid souls find Petrolicious? Red and all the other bright, sear your retina, see it in your dreams colors are the best. What the heck is subtle about a V-8 Mustang, a new Vette, a 388 GTB? Why try and hide an outrageous ride? Don’t fear the color!

Paul Steel
Paul Steel
9 years ago

My Alfa is red and I love it, don’t care that it’s the defacto colour for Alfa’s old and new, there is historical relevance.
Would I prefer to be “seen” in a less common colour Alfa? Really I don’t care, if you want to be part of the in-crowd and join the “status quo” get yourself a less common colour and standout.

Emanuel Costa
Emanuel Costa
9 years ago

Red is not a liberation nor being original. It’s a ‘look at me colour’, and most of don’t want to be looked at all day long on the road. On the other hand, white, as the ‘absence of colour’, doesn’t work either. I would never buy a red or white car. But sometimes I don’t mind driving them, if it’s only for a few days… I’ve had very fun afternoons with red convertibles and white sports sedans with black roofs, knowing that the next day I would return them and go back to my boring silver station with the child seat in the back…

Tom DesRochers
Tom DesRochers
9 years ago

“Liberation?” More like the color of “Look at me officer!” I prefer my cars to be discreet about their capabilities. Remember the Fox Mustang LX 5.0 Liter? If I had one I would swap the 5.0 badge for whatever badge the 4cylinder car had at that spot. The second exhaust would be easy to hide as long as it is NOT chrome tipped. The 89-95 Thunderbird Super Coupe is another subtle car. Change the back bumper to get rid of the “SC” and job done. My current project is a brown 4 door Maverick. I still need to decide on an engine which does NOT sound like it has power. Sadly, the Maverick is too new for a Petrolicious rally because it is a 76.

Martin James
Martin James
9 years ago

” The color of liberation ” – ehhh ? Errrr… fraid not ! More like the obvious color you chose when you want to be exactly like everyone else .. fitting in , being a part of the ‘ Status Quo ‘ and about as stereotypical and unoriginal as you can get !

Suffice it to say … of all the Italian Stallions [ and Pony’s ] I’ve ever owned …. not one was ever Red . Red being too blatantly obvious a choice for a genuinely ‘ liberated ‘ iconoclastic individual . Try… White … Swaters blue … Fly Yellow .. and … Dark blue for the four I’ve owned .

Red being ‘ liberating ‘ indeed . Next you’ll be trying to convince us all those H-D catalog bolt ons you stuck on your Harley M/C is the fullest expression of your genuine bonafide individuality as well

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